Master class: Ames High chamber music trio to perform Thursday

Ronna Faaborg
Ames Tribune

Three Ames High School musicians participated in a virtual master class Sunday with a nationally acclaimed ensemble, the Merz Trio, and will perform during the Ames High Orchestra concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the main auditorium of the high school.

“The Merz Trio is one of the most lauded young chamber ensembles, having won the prestigious Fischoff, Concert Artist Guild and Chesapeake chamber music prizes,” said Paula Forrest, artistic director for Ames Town & Gown Chamber Music Association, which organized the Zoom master class among the musicians.

The Merz Trio is comprised of pianist Lee Dionne, violinist Bridgid Coleridge and cellist Julia Yang. The Ames High trio members are senior pianist Steven Tian, freshman violinist Mengze Li and senior cellist Arianna Williams-Suarez.

“What they're playing is the Adagio slow movement of a trio by Beethoven, Opus 11, which he wrote for either clarinet or violin and cello and piano,” Forrest said during practice at her home on Saturday.

“For me, it's been really great to be in an ensemble again,” Williams-Suarez said. “I used to play with the Des Moines Symphony ensemble quartet, which is really fun. It just feels really good to play with other people, not just by yourself in your room practicing all the time.”

Ames High School chamber music trio, Mengze Li on violin, Steven Tian on piano and Arianna Williams-Suarez on cello, practice at Ames Town & Gown Artistic Director Paula Forrest's home on Saturday in preparation for a master class with the nationally renowned Merz Trio.

For Li, it was his first experience playing in a chamber group with a pianist.

“I haven’t done anything like this before, but it’s nice,” he said.

For Tian, it was his first time playing in a chamber music ensemble.

“I think it's a pretty cool experience,” he said. “And as Arianna said, it's kind of nice to get out of the house and play music with other people.”

On Sunday, the three Ames musicians performed and took notes from the experts in the Merz Trio, who joined them virtually from Boston.

“It was a wonderful success — the trio played beautifully, the Merz Trio was very impressed, and they helped put the ‘icing on the cake,’” Forrest wrote in an email after Sunday’s event. “The Zoom format worked well, and having it in the home of Eric and Carol Weber, with their beautiful Steinway piano, worked out perfectly.”

The Merz Trio was initially scheduled to come to Ames last December for an Ames Town & Gown concert and the live master class with the high school students, but COVID-19 canceled that opportunity.

“It was Beethoven's 250th birthday at that time, so we decided to stick to a Beethoven piece for the Zoom version of the master class,” Forrest said.

The Thursday night performance is open to the public.

“I hope you can be there to celebrate these young musicians and our return to live music,” Forrest said.